The Irish will lose senior starter Derek Landri after the 2006 season. Landri's been a fireplug along the interior for Irish defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and there doesn't appear to be any obvious candidates to replace him next season.
The good news is senior Trevor Laws will have another year of eligibility, but behind Landri and Laws, the Irish don't have a lot of candidates or experience returning. Freshmen Derrell Hand and Patrick Kuntz look to be the future at the interior spots unless the Irish can sign some top players to come in and compete with these two young and inexperienced players.
After watching the highlight film of El Paso, Texas defensive tackle Andre Jones, I'm convinced the 6-4, 305-pound star prospect can be a guy who can come in and compete for playing time most likely anywhere he'd sign.
The first thing that jumps out to me about Jones is how well he carries his 305-pound frame. He doesn't look overweight in the slightest. In fact, it appears he could add more weight and be just fine. I'm not sure he's the full 305 pounds, but he's definitely a big man who moves very well for his size.
Last year the Irish chased five-star prospect Gerald McCoy, only to be disappointed in the end with McCoy signing with in-state power Oklahoma. Jones appears to be the equal to McCoy in physical talent, and I bet we hear and read a lot of comparisons between the two in 2006.
Jones has that thick lower body you want in an interior defensive player. He has those huge, tree trunk type of legs similar to former Irish player Darrell Campbell. Campbell is the player he most reminds me in physical makeup. But Jones appears to be much quicker than Campbell on film.
He explodes out of his stance and stays low most of the time when firing out of his stance. There are a few clips where he should probably play a little lower, but his physical size simply dominated the opposition. A quick first step is vital for interior defensive linemen to get an advantage in leverage or angles in trying to shoot gaps. Jones shows that good first step, and the ability to explode through the line of scrimmage with little chance of a single defender stopping him.
Many times he simply dominates players with just his physical size, but you do see him double and triple-teamed often on film and you can get an idea of how well he plays technique, uses leverage, and how well he sheds defenders in pursuit. Jones uses his hands well in shedding defenders and one can tell he's had some coaching over the years.
Power and strength is something you always want to see in your interior players and Jones just throws around most players in a one-on-one situation. It's futile to try to block him man up, and most teams don't even bother trying once they learn that early in a game. But what you really like to see is Jones throwing two men around, which he does many times on his highlight film.
But the one trait I really like to see in interior defensive linemen is endless pursuit and Jones certainly shows that. A number of times Jones would have three men in his face and he kept fighting, finally rewarded for his efforts by making the tackle.
He's not just a hard-charging defender who pushes up field. He's got the agility to move well laterally and chase down darting offensive players, and he plays sideline to sideline in pursuit. Some bigger defensive linemen don't have the ability to move well left and right to chase down elusive players….Jones definitely has that.
Jones will clearly be one of the top defenders in the 2007 recruiting class. I'd imagine he'll likely be in the top two of interior defensive linemen in this recruiting class. He'd certainly fill a need for Notre Dame if they were fortunate enough to land him. There's no question in my mind that he'd compete right away for Landri's spot in 2007 if he did sign with the Irish.
This will likely be a two-team race in the end with Notre Dame chasing the Longhorns. Usually that's not a good sign for the Irish as Mack Brown and his staff has done an outstanding job of shutting the door on most teams trying to recruit top talent in Texas.
The Longhorns just held one of their junior days and Jones was offered. So far he hasn't committed to Texas, a good sign for Notre Dame, but the next two weeks will be critical for Charlie Weis and his staff. If they can weather the storm of Texas recruiting for the next few weeks, they just might have a chance to land this top target.